I just got back from Portland. I only had a short time there, but I loved finding local coffee shops, restaurants, and food trucks that served amazing food but that weren’t known outside of the immediate neighborhood. Almost every meal I had was amazing even though the people that served them would never be famous. They’re great in a particular place, and unknown everywhere else.
I avoided the chains. The closest I came to a chain was Salt & Straw, an ice cream shop with locations in three States. I made an exception because it’s that good. But the rest of the places we visited were the opposite. Nobody knows about them. They’re amazing, but they’re tied to that community and seem to have no plans to move or franchise.
I didn’t want the big and famous. I wanted the good and local.
I remember the first time I visited a distant city. I was surprised when some tourists searched for the local fast food chain they had back home. We did the opposite, even before the age of online maps and reviews. We looked for the lineups, the whole in the wall that didn’t look like much but had a lineup of locals who loved to eat there.
When a local place becomes good, some feel the temptation to branch out and start new locations, maybe spread throughout the country or even the world. But others recognize that they have not failed if they continue to serve a local community. Some of the best places I’ve ever been are good and local.
The same applies to ministries as well.
Some of the best churches I’ve visited are not big and are not known outside of their local neighborhood. They are not the churches that have instant name recognition. Their pastors aren’t well known. They’ve chosen to be good and local.
Sometimes a church does this so well that some may feel the tug to do more. That church could start a network or start new locations across the country. But other churches grow deeper roots in the community in which they serve. They are content to be unknown by everyone online. Some of them aren’t even well-known in the community in which they serve. But their impact isn’t measured by size or by fame but by their commitment to serve in a particular place as best as they can.
My favorite places to eat are good and local. My favorite places to worship and fellowship when I’m visiting another city are also those churches who are good and local. Few things encourage me more than when I find a good church serving a local community away from the spotlight with love and commitment.
We’ve commodified church. We emphasize online presence and impact. That’s okay, I guess, but it matters far less than we think. Give me the good local church, the unknown pastor, the faithful congregation who’s been rooted in a community for years and has no plans to move, and that serves a steady diet of sacrifice and worship. Those are the churches I admire, and they’re everywhere, even if they’re not well known. I praise God for them.